Tapestry

"The best thing that's ever happened to you is getting hit by a truck": The fall and rise of John Maclean

How far can you go? John Maclean's 25 year quest to walk again.

The fall and rise of John Maclean

6 years ago
Duration 0:54
John Maclean's 25 year quest to walk again.

"So I remember getting back onto the freeway on the side of the road where you could ride your bike. And after that nothing. For me, I was very fortunate to survive the accident. And my first recollection was waking up four days later." - John Maclean

When John Maclean was twenty-two, his life was going very well. He was a successful athlete on track for great achievement and success.

Then one morning, while riding his bicycle, he was hit by an eight-ton track.

"After having my injury, it was very dark and I grieved that I had to say goodbye to my legs. Grieved to say goodbye to the life that I had. And I think it was important for me to do that." - John Maclean

Once Maclean did the heavy emotional lifting, he returned to sports and turned his sights on some of the world's most challenging sporting events. He became the first wheelchair athlete to complete the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon and swim the English Channel.

John Maclean at the Hawaiian Ironman 1997 finish. He was the first wheelchair athlete to complete the course within conventional cut- off times.

But as Maclean tells it, he still had much to learn about life.

After crashing in a race at the Sydney Olympics, Maclean fell into a depression. His life coach Maurie Rayner gave him a frank assessment, "The best thing that ever happened to you was getting hit by that truck. The next best thing that ever happened to you was crashing at the Olympics. Maybe that will make you realize that life doesn't revolve around John Maclean."

Maclean says his greatest personal achievement has been to partially regain the ability to walk with the help of therapist Ken Ware. He cautions that in spite of the years of hard work, this is not a miracle cure. "I still have my paralysis. Ken said you always had the potential with my injury and what happened to my spinal chord."

"My walking is not like it was pre-accident, but it's up on my feet again so it's celebrating those moments."

John Maclean at the Nepean Triathlon in 2014, completing his first conventional triathlon in 26 years

Win a copy of John Maclean's book. 

We have five copies of John Maclean's book, How Far Can You Go? My 25 Year Quest to Walk Again to give away.

To enter your name into the draw, send us an email: tapestry@cbc.ca. Please put 'John Maclean' in the subject line.

Click here to read the CBC's generic contest rules.

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